Immediately following the Las Vegas shooting on Oct. 1 — during which a gunman sequestered on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino unloaded into a crowd at an outdoor country music festival across the street, killing 58 people — staff and administrators at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Neb., did what came naturally. They reviewed and updated security policies.
“I think overall you’ll see — at sporting events and at concerts — a larger police presence outside the venue and certainly all of our security measures inside,” Tom Lorenz, the facility’s general manager, told KLKN-TV. “Looking into the future, we are going to be looking at the buildings around us with a little more clarity. We are going to be trying to push the perimeter of our security further out, so people who come feel safe.”
Similar efforts are happening all over the country, as law enforcement officials and security experts weigh options about preventing future tragedies. According to Voice of America, the majority of the nearly 140 major sports stadiums in the United States are uncovered and sit next to tall buildings, where a shooter could easily hide.
“It’s going to be very difficult. They’re outside and not in an area that can be protected,” John White, president and CEO of security consultant Protection Management in Canton, Ohio, told the VOA.
Meanwhile, Jeffrey Miller — a former Pennsylvania State Police commissioner and senior vice president at New York-based consulting firm MSA Security — said the best protection for open-air venues, especially ones near tall buildings, may be posting “sniper over-watch positions looking outward to monitor any potential high-ground threat” and “coordinating with security personnel at each of the nearby buildings that look into the event venue.”
That scares the heck out of Las Vegas parent Judd Dagh. Snipers already are used for some large gatherings, but what about smaller venues with smaller crowds? Who will determine — and how — what facilities deserve added protection?
“Is it 200 people plus? Is it 2,000 people plus? Is it 20,000?” Dagh asked National Public Radio correspondent Eric Westervelt. “Is it a confined space? Is it open air? You know, we’re reasonable people, and we need to protect ourselves. But to think that from here on out, our kids are going to live a different life than we did in a dramatic way is, frankly, unacceptable.”
Los Angeles, for its part, is “constantly refining our look at large events” (including sporting events), Mayor Eric Garcetti said at a news conference on Oct. 2. “This is the kind of thing that keeps you up late at night as a mayor,” he said. “We will continue to do everything we can to protect life in the city from these mass shootings, both in policy and in protection. [But] we can’t make that a hundred percent secure, ever.”
“If one is determined to kill and willing to kill indiscriminately, then any assembly of people anywhere is a target, and we cannot stop that,” Brian Jenkins, a terrorism and security expert at RAND Corp. in Santa Monica, Calif., told The Orange County Register. “We just have to be realistic about what can be done.”
“There are these gaps -- places where people can find a way to do harm,” Todd Pultz, vice president of operations at Moonlight Security Inc., which oversees security for hotels and other venues throughout Ohio, told Cleveland.com. “The amount of soft targets in our society is unreal: outdoor events, concerts, parades, or even someone giving a press briefing. It’s pretty much impossible to be able to eliminate all acts at places like this.”
Yet that’s the inescapable challenge and haunting reality of hosting games and other events in 2017.